Note: This is the first in a series of articles on Discipline Methods introduced last Friday in Discipline and Parenting Style. This series on discipline will be published every Friday so please check back regularly or subscribe via email or follow us at Twitter or Facebook (buttons are at the bottom right corner as well).
Communication is a process of transferring information from one person to another. It is a way to impart or interchange thoughts, opinions or information by verbal/auditory and non-verbal means. Communication could be one-way (unidirectional) but in human relationships, including that of a parent and child, two-way communication has always been proven better.
In child discipline, communication is key to success. Regardless of the discipline method you are employing, the manner in which you communicate with your child will most likely determine your success. Here are some important points:
- Child age appropriateness: The manner you communicate should be appropriate to the child’s age. When the reasoning skills of a child are not yet well developed, you cannot expect a child to always meet your expectations by giving direct instructions. In this case, positive reinforcement yields better results. Remember that at this stage of the child’s development, he is only taking cues on how you respond to his every behavior and not because you say so. Focus on what the child is doing right, offer more attention and encouragement whenever the child is doing something you want him to repeat over and over, and that is what you’ll get. Again, you do not communicate to your child at this stage by giving direct instructions; rather you reinforce good behavior by responding positively whenever he has done something right. An applause, a smile, kiss, hug or any expression of appreciation and love is a better way of communicating what you want him to do.
When a child turns 18 months to 2 years until he reaches 6 years of age, verbal instructions with explanations may start to become effective because at this stage, he can now process more information. As the child’s verbal abilities improve, you can explain more things to him.
- The two-way traffic: Whenever you give direct instructions, offer explanations, be clear, precise and firm but don’t forget to listen. Set the boundaries and limitations, and define your standards up front. Firmly state your reasonable expectations from him but explain why by stating the advantages of doing it and the consequences of not doing it. A child deserves explanation as much as parents do. Then practice good listening skills. Take time to listen what the child has to say and wait for his affirmation that he understands your point. Be amaze at how cooperative a child can be if he knows that his thoughts and opinion matter.
A healthy two-way communication between a parent and a child preserves the respect in each other and lessens the likelihood of putting each other in a demeaning situation.
- Being consistent: Teaching appropriate behavior would require several repetitions before it is learned. Being consistent with the behavioral standards and limitations you communicate to your child establishes your credibility that you know what you are talking about and that you are serious in imposing them. Being consistent would avoid confusion as well.
Children without boundaries feel insecure and unsure where they stand, but when there are boundaries they tend to test the strength of those boundaries and the consequences of going beyond the limits. A constant reminder should be given to the child consistent with the set behavioral standards and limitations such that the same message is conveyed from the 1st to the nth time you say it, unless a revision in the standard is deemed necessary. If a child defiantly breaks the boundary in spite of your best effort to properly and consistently communicate behavioral standards and limitations, make sure you are ready to apply other appropriate discipline method to bring him back to where he should stand.
- The truth and nothing but the truth: Whether you are dealing with a young child or an older kid, tell him straight facts. Do not try to invent stories or characters to make a child follow the rules. You will be risking the loss of child’s trust in you in the event that he discovers the truth. If the child is smart enough, he can immediately tell if you are just making it up and you will definitely appear silly. For instance, never tell a child “to sleep early so Dracula won’t get him”. Telling him directly the health benefits of good rest and sleep to a growing child will be better appreciated. Then help him by implementing ways of promoting good sleeping habits in children.
- Say what you mean and mean what you say: When giving consequences to misbehavior, make sure these are doable and have it done if the situation calls for it. For example, you want your child to finish his homework before he can watch television. Fine, but what will happen if he doesn’t obey? You can come up with various consequences for misbehavior, like disobedience would result in him not allowed to watching television for one whole week. Tell this to him directly and make sure that the whole week NO TV punishment is implemented in case he disobeys. Never say “I’ll crush the TV on your head if I see you watching before the homework in done!” You can never do that to your child and your child knows that so the communication becomes ineffective if done in this manner.
Role modeling is an effective means of child discipline but requires a lot of discipline to the role model himself. Start by asking yourself this question, “Being a role model, am I self disciplined?” Dr. Robyn Silverman posed more questions to guide role models. Be a positive role model and follow the seven ways to make a positive impact on children enumerated by Dr. Robyn Silverman. Read them using this link and judge for yourself if it makes sense to you. Make yourself worthy of a child’s admiration…be his mentor…and start with yourself.
NEXT: Discipline Methods: Merits and Demerits
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UPDATE: The next discipline methods article is already posted-- Discipline Methods: Merits and Demerits